Skip to content
Ukrainian officials call for strike against Russian arms depot in Luhansk region


(CNN)

In Ukrainian villages east of the capital kyiv, where Russian forces have retreated, residents are slowly starting to come out of hiding and the new reality they are facing is nothing short of devastating.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward visited two Russian-occupied villages for over a month. She reported that they found “endless tales of horror, executions, arbitrary detentions and more”.

A local school was taken over by Vladimir Putin’s invading army, used as a base and left in ruins after being looted and ransacked by troops.

Bloodstains stain the main entrance, where the school principal wonders how such an atrocity could have happened.

“We are for education. Education is the future. Our students,” the woman told Ward. “It’s such a shame that our occupants didn’t understand that. Why steal everything? It is a school.

A blackboard in a classroom visited by Ward that was once occupied by Russians read, “Forgive us, we didn’t want this war.”

Nearby, a local cemetery holds the bodies of six Ukrainian men who authorities say were executed on the first day the Russians arrived.

“We dug in really fast so they wouldn’t shoot at us,” one woman told CNN. “But there was shooting there and heavy shelling.”

A pair of brothers are among the dead, Igor and Oleg. Their mother survived, but is now crying.

“They were very good boys,” she said. “How I long to see them again.”

A Ukrainian mother told Ward that her daughter was abducted on March 25. More than two weeks later, she does not know where she is or if she survived the Russian invasion.

“They said they found information on his phone about their strengths,” the mother told Ward. “They told me she was in a warm home. That she was working with them and that she would be home soon.

But as Ward revealed, “Victoria never came home.”

Amid the risk of certain death, Ukrainian residents clung to each other and their sense of pride, with one woman finding solace among the blue and yellow stripes, Ward reported.

“We kept it, we kept it,” the woman tells Ward, showing the Ukrainian flag given to her husband for his military service. “We hid it.”

Now the flag can come out of hiding, as the Russian forces have withdrawn. The village is decimated, but for now it is free again.

Watch Ward in the field reporting:


cnn

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.